Platform Studies, McLuhan, and Winner

A while ago, we were discussing Platform Studies in class, and the different ideas revolving around them. We considered the fact that they might be elitist, we discussed their importance since games required platforms to function, and we even wondered what platforms themselves were. During the discussion, I couldn’t help but think of two people whose works I read last semester for a different class. The first is McLuhan, who said something I thought was quite important:

“The Medium is the Message”According to McLuhan, the medium (whether it be TV, radio, a book, a newspaper, etc.) is so important that the message of the medium itself is the only message that exists rather than the text/film/recording it actually propagates. Sure, this idea has several flaws and many people disagree, but as we discussed platforms in class, I couldn’t help but think of how different platforms would affect different games. My question is, how would a different platform affect a single game? What other messages to the platforms share when they transmit whatever games we play on them?

A difficult question, to be sure. Maybe Winner will be of some help. Langdon Winner was someone else whom I studied last semester. He published a book titled Autonomous Technologies. In his book, Winner proposes the approach of Epistemological Luddism towards technology in general. Despite the root of the word, it doesn’t mean destroying all forms of technology in favor of living in a world of simplicity and human work. No. Winner was wary of machines because he was unaware of how they functioned, and their dependency on humans, and the potential for humans themselves to be dependent on machines. In an attempt to understand not only this interdependency, but how the machines worked (not only mechanically, but how they affected society and individuals), he proposed Epistemological Luddism. This is a taking apart of the machine merely to understand it and its larger effects, rather than just blindly accepting all technology as good and probably harmless.

I really was able to relate these two theorists to Platform Studies. They really would approve of the idea, since what do we really know about the platforms where all our games are played? Maybe some of you guys are much better mechanics than I am, but I have no idea how they work. However, even if we don’t understand how they work, I believe it’s important to keep Epistemological Luddism in mind, but more to find out how these machines change society around them and change the messages/games they contain. Because these platforms do have an effect on both games and societies. The question is trying to find out what it is.

0 thoughts on “Platform Studies, McLuhan, and Winner

  1. This was for my Rhetorics of New Media seminar last semester. It was absolutely fascinating, even if we mostly studied film and the internet rather than videogames. It really brought up a lot of questions about technology nowadays and its effects on our society.

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